Darren Elkins (28-10) vs Jonathan Pearce (13-4) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A very fun featherweight fight next between the past and potentially future of this division. Elkins has won three of his last four, losing to Cub Swanson and beating Tristan Connelly in his last two bouts. Pearce on the other hand has won his last four in a row with three finishes, beating Kai Kamaka III, Omar Morales (UFC 266), Christian Rodriguez and most recently Makwan Amirkhani at UFC London in July.
Elkins is a fighter with a bit of everything in his arsenal, but nothing to an outstanding level outside of his heart and durability. He pushes and pushes when others wouldn’t to grind out the win, using a rushing style and excellent cardio to his advantage. Pearce alternatively though is a sensational wrestler with a suffocating ground game as well as some technical standup on the feet, with a gas tank that seemingly never waivers.
Considering Elkins’ best chance of winning is turning this into a war of attrition, something that JSP thrives in, him winning this would be a miracle. Pearce should be able to overwhelm him everywhere and while he could get the finish to make a statement, I think Elkins should be able to survive that much at least. PICK – Jonathan Pearce via Decision
Michael Johnson (21-18) vs Marc Diakiese (16-5) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
An interesting lightweight fight between two guys who have had solid UFC careers. Johnson snapped a four-fight losing streak when he KO’d Alan Patrick back in May, but he lose a split decision against Jamie Mullarkey back in July most recently. Diakiese on the other hand bounced back from defeats to Rafael Fiziev (UFC Fight Island 2) and Rafael Alves to beat Viacheslav Borshchev and Damir Hadzovic in his two most recent bouts.
Johnson is a solid boxer with legitimately scary power in his hands and a decent wrestling background too but he really struggles if he ends up on the bottom. Diakiese is an excellent, technical kickboxer on the feet but has always been willing to wrestle if he needs too, which may be his best route to victory here.
Diakiese will feel he has the edge wherever this fight goes and when his confidence is flowing he’s at his best. Johnson will know he likely needs to land one of those detonators to win this bout which could see him chase it, but eventually he’ll be on his back and Diakiese will cruise to the win. PICK – Marc Diakiese via Decision
Clay Guida (37-19) vs Scott Holtzman (14-5) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Lightweight scrap up next. Guida is one of the legends of the sport but he’s struggled in recent outings, losing a decision to Mark O. Madsen, before a knee bar submission loss to Claudio Puelles most recently. He earned a submission win over Leonardo Santos between those fights at UFC Vegas 44. Holtzman has lost his last two outings, but both came against elite opposition in Beneil Dariush (UFC Vegas 6) and Mateusz Gamrot (UFC Vegas 23).
Guida is a wrestler. That’s it. He will rush forward with great energy and bounce and look to take you down or push you against the cage and take you down. As for Holtzman, he has struggled in the past against persistent takedown offences, but his striking game is excellent and his takedown defence isn’t horrible. Add to that Guida’s takedown accuracy leaves plenty to be desired, Holtzman has a great shot here.
Guida won’t get tired and will be relentless with his shots for the takedown, but Holtzman can light him up like a Christmas tree on the feet with his punches and nasty knees. I don’t anticipate a finish on either side, but I think Holtzman lands enough killer shots to catch the judge’s eyes and claim a close decision. PICK – Scott Holtzman
Angela Hill (14-12) vs Emily Ducote (12-6) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
Strawweights up next looking to break into the rankings. Hill has lost five of her last seven officially but there are some dodgy decisions involved. Last time out though it went her way, claiming a decision win over Lupita Godinez to snap a three-fight losing streak. Ducote on the other hand has won her last four in a row, including a decision win over Jessica Penne in her UFC debut back in July.
Hill is a Muay-Thai fighter with good striking and a relentless work rate, constantly scrambling on the mat and pushing forward when on the feet to get her opponent moving backwards. Ducote is a decent boxer on the feet with good combinations and footwork, and she’s also got some good wrestling in her back pocket too.
Ducote will know that if she’s at her best then she should have too much for Hill, but Hill’s specialty is making people not be able to perform at their best. That should see Ducote even more tuned in and more focused, and with a deeper toolbox to delve into over the course of 15 minutes she should get the win. PICK – Emily Ducote via Decision
Niko Price (15-5) vs Phil Rowe (9-3) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Absolute banger at welterweight as our featured prelim bout next. Price is 1-2-1 in his last four, losing to Vicente Luque and drawing with Donald Cerrone at UFC Vegas 11 (later overturned to a NC for cannabis), and losing to Michel Pereira (UFC 264). He bounced back with a big decision win over Alex Oliveira most recently though. Rowe recovered from defeat in his UFC debut at UFC 258 to Gabriel Green by knocking out Orion Cosce and Jason Witt in each of his last two bouts.
Price is one of the most exciting fighters on the roster, constantly pushing forward to land heavy strikes and knock opponents out, while also being willing to eat a few shots to give them back. Rowe tends to start quite slowly, but has got incredible punching power and good combinations once he starts going, as well as some okay wrestling to fall back on.
The problem he faces is that while he starts slowly, Price rushes out of the gate and against someone who can finish you in an instant that is dangerous. Price will respect the power coming back at him so it may take a few minutes to really start flying, but expect Price to up the pressure early and land a few big shots to close the show before Rowe gets the chance to really wake up. PICK – Niko Price via Knockout, Round 1
Interesting start to the bout as Perez comes out with a weird, bouncing stance and Eduardo lights him up with three heavy low kicks early on. Perez stops the bouncing and lands a few jabs but Eduardo responding with leg kicks again but not much volume from either guy so far. Eduardo lands a nice combination to the body and then head, but Perez responds with a heavy left hook that immediately gets the attention of Eduardo. Almost a pedestrian pace to the fight currently, with Eduardo landing another very heavy leg kick. Perez fires a right straight that grazes the chin, but Eduardo controlling the range and pace and despite the lack of action he’s ahead in the round for me. Eduardo lands a nice right hook to the chin as we enter the final 30 seconds of the round and that’s that. 10-9 Eduardo.
Eduardo opens up the round with two more very heavy leg kicks inside the first ten seconds. Perez goes for a blitz but misses and then eats a spinning heel kick to the body. Perez goes to charge with a blitz again but Eduardo does well to avoid for the most part, clinch and secure a takedown and top position. Perez ties Eduardo up well initially before bouncing back to his feet quickly. Perez lands two big right hands and steps up the aggression to land a few more strikes himself. Eduardo throws a big left hand that lands too, before Perez shoots in for a takedown and ends up on top himself. Two big strikes from the top by Perez and as Eduardo looks to get up Perez grabs for his neck but Eduardo rolls to his back. Perez scrambles for the back and ends up in side control. He has a side headlock and takes Eduardo’s arm, slides it between his legs and secures an armbar! Eduardo can’t deal with the pressure and taps!! Big win for Perez!
Stephanie Egger def Shanna Young via Knockout, Round 2 (2:22)
Egger comes out and takes the centre early on, throwing some nice straight right hands to keep the range and pose a threat. Young goes with a blitz and puts a blind kick behind it which Egger catches, and she tries for a trip but Young defends it well. Egger lands a nice one-two but it seems to wake Young up a bit and she starts applying more forward pressure. Few strikes land and then Young goes to clinch but Egger throws her down immediately and is almost in full mount. Young defends it with a leg lock attempt and after defending it well Egger is able to stack her and start landing some big ground and pound strikes from standing and side control. Egger landing big elbows from the top but Young survives the round. 10-9 Egger.
Another good start to the round for Egger as she takes the centre and throws some big right hands again. Young starts to come forward and lands a few good strikes in a blitz but Egger grabs hold of her and immediately hip tosses Young to the ground. Big elbows and ground and pound from Egger and Young is hurt. Egger stands and the referee stops the fight!? Bit of a weird stoppage there. Great performance from Egger though.
Douglas Silva de Andrade def Gaetano Pirrello via Knockout, Round 1 (2:04)
Pirrello hanging on the outside and throws a couple of hard leg kicks early on with Andrade taking the centre and just feinting a lot. Andrade steps forward and lands a big right hand and follows it up with a couple more shots before they clinch up and separate. Andrade lands a left hand and then a jab to the body, while Pirrello looks for his range. Pirrello goes for a head kick but Andrade counters with a check left hook and puts Pirrello OUT!!! A few hammer fists before the referee gets there but what a KO that is!
Jamie Mullarkey def Devonte Smith via Knockout, Round 2 (2:51)
Nice even start to the fight for both guys as they trade feints and short jabs, with Mullarkey mixing in a low kick. Smith lands a clean one-two down the pipe and follows up with a couple of attempts but Mullarkey smiles at him. Mullarkey throws another hard leg kick but Smith fires back with two nice left hooks and then a huge right hand again that rocks him! He goes for a combination and jus misses with a big knee up the middle too. Nice jab from Smith and a big one-two behind it again before a big knee lands from Smith and rocks Mullarkey! Smith lands a head kick partially but Mullarkey is still in front of him and throwing those low kicks, then just misses with a big one-two. Smith’s speed a clear advantage as he lands a few more strikes but Mullarkey smothers him and gets a takedown late on in the round, lands some ground and pound before the buzzer goes. 10-9 Smith.
Strong start to the round again from Mullarkey as he steps forward early and takes the centre. Heavy low kick from Mullarkey again and it gets a big reaction from Smith who looks hurt from it. Mullarkey throws another as Smith gets on his bike and starts moving away. Mullarkey pushing the pace like a mad man and clinches up with some big knees to the body. Mullarkey keeps throwing knees and then rips two big hooks to the body that makes Smith cover up. An uppercut and hook to the head then back to the body and Smith drops! Mullarkey hits some strikes on the ground and the referee stops it! Huge win for Mullarkey! Impressive performance!
Karol Rosa def Bethe Correia via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 30-26)
Rosa makes a dominant start to this bout as she takes the centre, slips a jab and lands a right hand. Rosa gets a Thai clinch early and lands some big knees to the body and Correia responds with a hook that misses. Rosa staying patient in the centre before coming for more knees again. Nice one-two lands clean from Rosa before a nice body kick and another one-two. Rosa being so patient and sliding out of the way of all Correia’s attacks, then jumps in with a flying knee straight to the face that Correia just eats. Rosa pops out her jab twice and starts cutting the cage off, but Correia lands a nice right hand. Rosa shoots for a takedown against the cage but Correia defends it well and sees out the round. 10-9 Rosa.
Correia takes the centre early this time around but Rosa throwing her jab well once again and landing with ease. Nice left jab a few more times and then Correia tries to charge her and eats a massive knee to the nose! Rosa lands a nice one-two again and Correia goes back to the outside and circles, but Rosa staying patient and firing in right hands behind her jab. Rosa staying out of range until she’s ready to engage. Big knee to the body from Rosa again and she’s upping the pace now, landing some combinations to the head too and forcing Correia backwards. Correia clinches up against the cage but eats a big knee to the body and an elbow to the face twice for good measure. Rosa just misses with another big elbow as the separate, but she lands a nice right hook when they engage again. Rosa lands another flying knee and big elbow but Correia manages to survive the round. 20-18 Rosa.
Rosa coming out nice and aggressive in the final round looking for a finish, with knees to the body again and solid right hooks behind it. Correia is still there though and trading with her as she lands a nice right hand of her own. Rosa fires back with a jab followed with a low kick and yet another running knee into the body with a right hook behind it. Rosa staying patient again with her jab, low kicks and right hand at the end of combinations. Both women trade low kicks and Correia lands a right hand, but Rosa goes back to the step-in knee before they clinch against the cage with a minute to go. They separate again and Rosa lands another one of her knees to the body before they clinch up again. Correia goes for a takedown but Rosa reverses it and ends the round with ground and pound strikes. 30-27, dominant win.
Casey O’Neill def Antonina Shevchenko via Knockout, Round 2 (4:47)
Very fast and aggressive start to the fight from O’Neill who puts the pressure on immediately. O’Neill lands a nice right hand but Shevchenko replies well with a one-two after a warning about out-stretched fingers from the referee. O’Neill changes levels and looks for the takedown but Shevchenko ends up on top and gets her in a crucifix position landing big ground and pound strikes. O’Neill escapes but Shevchenko is landing nice strikes on the feet whenever she counters. O’Neill changes levels again and finally takes Shevchenko down and is in a dominant position in half guard. O’Neill landing some nice ground strikes but Shevchenko gets it back to full-guard before eventually getting back to her feet with 30 seconds left in the round. O’Neill catches a kick and gets Shevchenko back on the ground to end the round on top. Tough to call, but I’d probably lean 10-9 to O’Neill.
Even start to this round as O’Neill gets the pressure going again and Shevchenko looks to counter strike from range. Clinch against the cage and Shevchenko lands some nice knees again before they separate, then O’Neill lands a left hand and then changes levels and secures a takedown. Shevchenko rolls onto her knees but O’Neill lands some nice strikes and then rolls onto her back and drags her back down with the hooks in. O’Neill looks to pass into full mount and does, then lands a big elbow as she starts to control. Big elbows from top position from O’Neill and Shevchenko gives up her back again. O’Neill goes for a choke but can’t quite get it then continues to land some big elbows! Shevchenko is hurt but O’Neill raining down bombs with her elbows and punches and the referee steps in to end it! What a performance from O’Neill!
Jared Gordon def Joe Solecki via Split Decision (29-28 x2, 28-29)
Very quick start for Solecki as he gets an immediate takedown and moves straight to mount on the ground. Gordon defends well and escapes the position but Solecki landing some good strikes on the ground and controlling the position well. Gordon wall-walks into space but Solecki follows him around and takes the back while landing heavy strikes to the head. Solecki starting to look for the neck but Gordon not panicking. Solecki starting to switch grips for the choke while controlling him completely but Gordon gets back to his feet with 40 seconds to go and is able to get on top himself. Nice elbow from top position by Gordon but that’s the round. Easy 10-9 for Solecki.
Gordon lands two nice strikes early but Solecki changes levels immediately and goes for a takedown once again. Gordon defending it against the cage but Solecki pushing for the takedown again. Gordon lands a nice knee and elbow while defending but Solecki not going anywhere. Gordon throws some elbows before Solecki finally gets the trip and ends up on top. Gordon gets the reversal though and ends up on top himself halfway through and lands some short elbows. Solecki tries to sweetp to get back on top but Gordon defends it well and is landing a few shots on the ground and wearing on him. Gordon prioritising position over damage in that round but he takes it. 19-19.
Composed start to the final round from both guys as they stay standing to begin with. Gordon more comfortable and landing his jab well, but Solecki exploding well and lands a body kick. Nice one-two by Solecki followed by a jab but Gordon starting to force him backwards. Solecki changes levels and comes over the top with a right hand that just misses, before Gordon shoots in for a takedown but Solecki defends it. Both men land a jab before Gordon gets a takedown against the cage, but he allows Solecki up immediately. Clinch in the centre sees Gordon use his strength and lands a couple of knees. Big right hand lands from Solecki and the round ends. I think that’s a 29-28 Gordon but third round is tough to score.
Alexander Hernandez def Mike Breeden via Knockout, Round 1 (1:20)
Very quick start to the fight from Breeden as he steps forward with some hooks and a heavy low kick early on. Hernandez right there with him and returns fire then shoots for a takedown, but Breeden denies him. Hernandez backs up then shoots in again but again he’s denied. Hernandez puts the pressure on him and lands a big one two that hurts Breeden. Hernandez lets the combinations fly and Breeden is covering up. Hernandez blasts his mouthpiece out with a big right hand and keeps going. Breeden fires a left hand but misses and Hernandez smashes a right hand just behind the ear and puts Breeden out cold!!! What a knockout!
Krzysztof Jotko def Misha Cirkunov via Split Decision (29-28 x2, 28-29)
Cirkunov takes the centre early on and steps forward to force Jotko against the cage, before shooting in for a takedown early. Jotko defends it well and gets back to the feet, before another attempt from Cirkunov sees a trip get him down but bounce straight back up. Jotko defending the clinch against the cage before separating and taking the centre. Both guys trade leg kicks and then Cirkunov steps in with a jab, before Jotko lights him up with a nice combination. Cirkunov still keeping the centre but Jotko is moving well and landing his counters well. Cirkunov fakes with a takedown attempt and Jotko clinches with him immediately which allows Cirkunov to get hold of him against the cage until the end of the round. Tough to score, but I lean 10-9 Cirkunov.
Even start once again in this second round as they continue with Cirkunov in the centre and Jotko bouncing around on the outside. Cirkunov goes for a clinch and throws a knee to the body but it’s a bit low and there’s a pause in the action. Nice combination lands from Jotko that ends with a left uppercut, then Cirkunov responds with a low kick. Cirkunov keeps going for clinches and takedowns but Jotko is very easily defending and separating. Hard low kick from Cirkunov to counter a right hand from Jotko. Another clinch and denial before Jotko throws a big knee and that’s the end of the round. Tough to score again, but I’d go 19-19.
Better start to the round for Cirkunov as he finally gets a takedown after changing levels and securing a single leg. Immediate bearhug position on the back and he’s dragging Jotko around and landing big knees to the thighs and back. Jotko explodes up and gets to the feet and tries to land a big elbow, but Cirkunov ducks under it and scores another big takedown. Jotko gets back up quickly though and goes for a takedown of his own before looking to explode with strikes against the cage. Jotko explodes with a knee but accidentally gets a finger in Cirkunov’s eye and the referee pauses the fight. Jotko fired up and as they restart he fires in some hard one-twos that narrowly miss. Nice jab from Jotko with 40 seconds to go and he goes for a takedown but Cirkunov denies it easily. Both guys clinch and Jotko gets a takedown with ten seconds to go to end the fight. Tough call, could go either way, but I’d give it 29-28 Cirkunov.
Niko Price def Alex Oliveira via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Action packed start to this one as both guys look to take the centre and start trading heavy blows straight away. Nice exchange of strikes and Oliveira goes for a knee which Price catches and charges him up against the cage. Oliveira manages to reverse it and push Price down to the mat but Price holds on to the neck and rolls through to end up on top. Price looking to create space for ground and pound but Oliveira defending well. Price trying to move to side control but Oliveira defending well. Hard body shots from Price and then some elbows from the top to see out the round. 10-9 Price.
Good start to the round again from both guys with lots of feinting and some leg kicks just to touch each other. Oliveira lands a nice left hand before both men narrowly miss with big hooks. Price misses a head kick but lands a right hand hammer fist instead. Oliveira lands a right hand after catching a kick and Price falls backwards, so Oliveira looks to jump on top. Lots of scrambling for position but Oliveira manages to retain top position throughout. Some nice ground and pound and transitions from Oliveira but Price defending relatively well from the bottom and the round ends. 19-19 even.
Final round and both guys are going for it early. Hard low kicks from Oliveira and then a big right hand lands but Price not moving away at all and continues to threaten. Big body shot from Oliveira then a right hand. Price goes for the right hook but Oliveira responds with one of his own. Price lands two big shots and a right hook wobbles Oliveira, but he side steps and avoids. Both guys throwing big strikes and just missing, before Price throws a big right hand that stumbles Oliveira. Price going for a takedown against the cage but Oliveira defends it and they separate. Side kick from Oliveira to the body but Price continues to walk forward and Oliveira is exhausted. Price goes for a big superman punch but Oliveira ducks it and clinches him, looking to drag Price down to the mat. Price manages to throw Oliveira down and ends up on top and he’s hammering ground and pound to end the round. That should win it for Price. 29-28.
Kevin Holland vs Kyle Daukaus – No Contest (Accidental headbutt led to fight ending sequence)
Good start to the round for Daukaus as he comes forward with two hooks and goes straight for a takedown. Holland defends it well against the cage and shows excellent balance to stay on his feet before he looks to break away in a clinch. Daukaus then puts him back in a full nelson and the referee breaks up the position. Daukaus lands a nice one-two, and then as Holland throws a right hand they clash heads and Holland goes out cold! Daukaus goes on to continue to look for a finish and eventually gets a rear-naked choke locked in and Holland is forced to tap out despite fighting hard to stay in the fight.
After the fight, a significant review takes place over the footage and the referee deems the fight a no contest due to an accidental clash of heads leading to the fight-ending sequence.
Thiago Santos def Johnny Walker via Unanimous Decision (48-47 x3)
First strike of the fight comes 30 seconds in as Walker throws a low kick, and the second comes 30 seconds later when Walker blocks a high kick from Santos. Walker takes the centre and is backing Santos up against the cage, but neither man throwing anything as we approach the halfway point of the round. Walker continues with a couple of low kicks and Santos goes to throw a high kick, but lots of feinting from both guys and not much action at all. Teep kick from Walker lands. More jockeying from both guys as the round ends. That’s an impossible round to score because nothing happened. 10-10.
Second round starts quicker as Santos takes the centre and shoots for a takedown with a single leg. Walker defends it well but both guys swing big hooks on their way out of the clinch and Santos lands the left hand grazing him. Santos throws a head kick but Walker blocks it and replies with a low kick. The round has gone timid again and Walker misses with a big overhand right, then lands another low kick. Nice left body kick from Santos lands and then he lands two more too with a left hand behind it. Walker eats them though and comes forward. More touching and feinting as the round ends. Round 2 goes to Santos for me, 20-19.
Lots of feints again in the third round as Walker looks to go back to the teep kicks and leg kicks from the first round. Santos grazes him with a head kick and then misses with a wild left hand. Walker throws more kicks but Santos side steps it and lands a left cross on the chin. Walker still there and doing lots of feinting again but Santos looks comfortable. Big exchange from both guys but they both miss and the fight is starting to open up a little bit now. Santos parries a body kick and lands a strong left hand again but Walker is still standing and moving. Walker throws a leg kick again and Santos replies with a left hook. Big spinning wheel kick misses from Santos but then he throws a head kick that is partially blocked. 30-28 Santos.
Santos comes out aggressive in the fourth and lands a nice body shot. Walker coming forward but not really throwing anything of note. Head kick attempt from Santos misses again, then Walker throws one and just misses. Santos throws a jump knee that misses and then Santos goes for his left hand again. Hard leg kick from Santos but Walker doesn’t look too affected by them. Walker’s kick gets caught but he lands two big right hands of his own before eating one from Santos. Big one-two lands from Santos again but Walker eats it well and threatens with a reverse elbow. Another hard left hand from Santos just misses, before he lands a body kick to end the round. Close round that one, 40-37 Santos for me.
This has not been the type of fight we all expected, but we go into the fifth round anyway. Slow start again with lots of feints and a slow pace. Santos comes forward and lands a left hand to the side of the head but Walker is still looking to chop the legs. Santos lands a HUGE left hand clean but Walker eats it and calls him on for more. Body kick from Santos lands twice before Walker slides forward to close distance. Santos staying out of danger for the most part and both men faking a lot again. Left hand lands from Santos and Walker lands a right hand at the same time. Big head kick from Santos lands but again Walker just eats it. Capoeira kick from Walker misses and that’s the round. 50-36 Santos for me, maybe 49-47 but very weird fight to score.
A fun light heavyweight card at the UFC Apex this weekend as former title challenger Thiago Santos takes on hot prospect Johnny Walker in the main event of UFC Vegas 38.
Santos previously fought Jon Jones for the 205lbs title and many thought he won, before ultimately falling to a decision defeat. He blew out both knees in that fight and has since returned to face Glover Teixeira and Aleksandar Rakic, where he was dominated and now looks to get back to winning ways. Walker went on a tear before suffering a small skid himself, but after getting back in the win column he is hoping to make a push for the top five.
Elsewhere on the card two hot prospects at women’s bantamweight clash as Aspen Ladd takes on Macy Chiasson, while Antonina Shevchenko takes on the undefeated Casey O’Neill and Kevin Holland takes on Kyle Daukaus in the co-main event.
Last week at UFC 266 we went 10/13 with five perfect picks on the night to move us up to 421/659 (63.88%) with 183 perfect picks (43.47%). We’ll look to improve that here and after starting with the early prelims and the rest of the prelims here, we move on to the main card.
Alexander Hernandez (12-4) vs Mike Breeden (10-3) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A short-notice bout at lightweight to open the main card as ‘The Great’ Hernandez takes on Mike Breeden. Hernandez has alternated wins and losses in his last five, with a defeat against Thiago Moises last time out at UFC Vegas 20. Breeden has won his last two outside the UFC, beating Ken Beverley and Nick Compton most recently back in May.
Hernandez is a pressure fighter with good power in his hands, solid kicks and a good, durable chin. Breeden is a good boxer who has great combinations but also with a solid calf kick and someone who is always game to fight. Hernandez is really well-rounded, with his best performances coming when he mixes up clinches and takedowns with his powerful striking.
Breeden is a good fighter in his own merit, but this is a huge step up in competition for him and even moreso on just a week’s notice. He’ll come forward and be game, no doubt, but Hernandez will push the pace and eventually his body work will pay dividends to get him a stoppage win. PICK – Alexander Hernandez via Knockout, Round 3
Aspen Ladd (9-1) vs Macy Chiasson (8-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
An intriguing fight at the top of the women’s bantamweight division as Aspen Ladd takes on Macy Chiasson. Ladd is a great striker, who’s only defeat came in just 16 seconds against Germaine De Randamie. She bounced back from that with an impressive KO win over Yana Kunitskaya back in 2019 but hasn’t fought since. Chiasson won TUF 28 and has since gone 4-1 in the UFC proper, with her most recent win coming against Marion Reneau at UFC Vegas 22.
Ladd is a brilliant wrestler who has some violent ground and pound and vicious striking on the feet to go with it, while Chiasson is a super well-rounded fighter herself too with an even split of finishes via knockout and submission. Ladd is returning from a torn ACL/MCL injury but while Chiasson has got some good names on her resumé she’s not fought anyone of the calibre of Ladd before.
Ladd is powerful, quick, a great striker and has the advantage with the wrestling too which means she can dictate where this fight goes. Because of that, she’ll only need one takedown per round to control and land some vicious shots and therefore I think she’ll get the win. PICK – Aspen Ladd via Decision
Misha Cirkunov (15-6) vs Krzysztof Jotko (22-5) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A fun middleweight clash between two Europeans in this one. Cirkunov has lost four of his last six bouts, getting KO’d by Ryan Spann in just 71 seconds last time out at UFC Vegas 21. Jotko on the other hand had won three-in-a-row before coming up against Sean Strickland at UFC Vegas 25 and getting dominated on the feet.
Cirkunov is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt who is the most grapple heavy fighter on this card. He is a brilliant submission artist, with eight of his 15 wins coming via tap out. Jotko on the other hand is a great kickboxer with a terrific amount of power in his strikes, although his ground game is next to non-existent.
It’s a true grappler vs striker bout and I’d be surprised to see it come out of the first round in all honesty. If Cirkunov gets a takedown, he gets a submission win. If Jotko keeps it standing, he blasts the chin and gets a KO. As it goes, I think Cirkunov does get the takedown and locks up a head-and-arm choke for the win. PICK – Misha Cirkunov via Submission, Round 1
Alex Oliveira (22-10-1) vs Niko Price (14-5) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Potentially the fight of the night in the welterweight division here. ‘Cowboy’ Oliveira is a veteran of the sport who doesn’t know how to have a boring fight, having lost five of his last seven including his last two against Shavkat Rakhmonov and Randy Brown at UFC 261 most recently. Niko Price is in the same boat in terms of entertainment value, and has also lost two of his last three (the third a draw overturned to a NC) against Vicente Luque and Michel Pereira at UFC 264.
Oliveira is a good boxer with solid wrestling and nasty body kicks, but he’s seen his durability wane in recent years and that will harm him. Price is a powerful puncher who pushes a relentless pace and just straight up loves a war in the cage, willing to give it his all no matter where it goes.
On the feet Price has him outpowered and on the ground Oliveira has the edge, but realistically they’re going to brawl at some point and Price is far more durable which means he’s likely to slam him with a big right hand that puts him into orbit and close the night early. PICK – Niko Price via Knockout, Round 2
Kevin Holland (21-7) vs Kyle Daukaus (10-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A very intriguing fight in the middleweight co-main event here. Holland was the 2020 Fighter of the Year racking up five wins in a row, but 2021 hasn’t been kind to him as he’s been dominated by both Derek Brunson and Marvin Vettori most recently at UFC Vegas 23. Daukaus hasn’t had a great UFC run so far, especially in comparison to his brother Chris, with a decision win against Dustin Stoltzfus sandwiched between defeats to Brendan Allen and Phil Hawes most recently at UFC Vegas 26.
Holland is a very powerful striker with great kickboxing and Muay Thai, but he’s also a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt on the mat. Daukaus is a grappling heavy fighter who is very heavy handed himself, but he looks to rain those punches down from top control. Daukaus is a good grappler but being unranked, this is a huge step up in competition for him. If he gets a takedown and gets on top then he’ll have success, but on the feet Holland has a huge edge.
Ultimately it’s a stylistically fun match up, but the level between the two fighters should see Holland able to keep the fight standing and slam punches down the pipe to earn himself a way back into the win column. PICK – Kevin Holland via Knockout, Round 3
Thiago Santos (21-9) vs Johnny Walker (18-5) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
An absolutely wild fight in the 205lbs division makes the main event here. Santos is on a three-fight losing skid after earning his way to a title shot, losing to Jon Jones, Glover Teixeira and Aleksandar Rakic most recently at UFC 259. Walker on the other hand halted a two-fight losing streak by bouncing back with a brilliant knockout win over Ryan Spann at UFC Vegas 11.
Santos is one of the most terrifying strikers in MMA, with ridiculous power in his hands and really powerful calf kicks and body kicks too. Walker is one of the most erratic fighters on the roster, with scary one-punch knockout power too and some really good clinch techniques too. Santos ripped his knees to shreds against Jones which has seen him stop kicking since his return, with limited movement.
That doesn’t bode well for Santos realistically because of how explosive Walker can be, but I think Santos is slightly more durable and has the faster hands which means he could land first and end the fight early. It could very realistically go the other way, but I lean towards Santos. PICK – Thiago Santos via Knockout, Round 1
Good start to the fight from Rivera as he uses that long reach advantage to stab some kicks into the gut. Zhumagulov starts throwing some nice overhand right hands and is moving well but Rivera is putting the pace on him. Zhumagulov lands a nice left hook that drops Rivera and then synches up a nasty looking standing guillotine and forces the tap! Huge win!
Great start to the fight from Tavares as he uses his boxing well to light Akhmedov up nice and early. A nice exchange in the pocket and Tavares comes out on top of it. Nice low kick from Akhmedov but Tavares counters with a nice right hand. Akhmedov shoots in for a takedown and after a bounce on the cage gets it, but Tavares bounces straight back up. A few more takedown attempts but Tavares denies them all and lands some nice strikes in the exchanges to end the round. 10-9 Tavares.
Akhmedov steps into the second round with a nice jab and then a takedown attempt and while he gets him down he can’t hold him there and Tavares gets back up early. Tavares starts landing some heavy leg kicks and Akhmedov is feeling it. Nice jabs from Tavares but now Akhmedov is landing some heavy leg kicks of his own. Tavares steps in for a clinch and lands a big knee to the face, followed by a heavy low kick again. Akhmedov goes for another takedown but Tavares defends it well and should claim that round too. 20-18 Tavares.
Fast start to the final round from Tavares but staying patient with the volume of strikes, just pressing forward and forcing Akhmedov backwards. Tavares throws a heavy leg kick that drops Akhmedov, then lands another big one as he gets back to his feet. Great movement from Tavares and his jab is landing clean too. Akhmedov goes for a takedown but Tavares stuffs it brilliantly. Final minute and Tavares has rocked him! Big strikes just miss but Akhmedov is stumbling. Tavares lands a nice kick to end the round, great fight. 30-27 Tavares.
Jennifer Maia def Jessica Eye via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x2, 30-27)
Interesting start as both women stay standing and Eye is landing really well. Nice kicks and some good hooks but Maia fires back too with a big knee up the middle. Eye lands some more short strikes and is just too fast so far. Some nice shots from Eye land and send Maia stumbling backwards and then Eye goes for a takedown and ends the round on top. 10-9 Eye.
Another good start from Eye as she continues to walk forward and lands short shots and apply pressure to Maia, who is being forced to fight on the back foot. Eye throwing some nice leg kicks but Maia is responding with a nice one-two up the middle that is landing well and often. Maia is pushing the pace now and landing big strikes. An accidental clash of heads opens up a massive cut on the head of Eye as the round ends. 19-19.
Final round and Maia is staying patient and not going straight for the cut. Lots of short strikes again but Eye is coming forward and landing some decent hooks and leg kicks of her own. Maia is doing really well to land the right hand and counter Eye’s pressure on the back foot. Big strikes from Maia as she applies heavy pressure herself with Eye bleeding heavily now. Great scrap, 29-28 Maia for me
Dricus Du Plessis def Trevin Giles via Knockout, Round 2 (1:41)
A very tense start to the fight for both guys as they both show lots of feints and bouncing on their feet. Du Plessis throwing some leg kicks to get some score with the judges and just misses with a flying knee. Du Plessis goes for the takedown against the cage and gets it, then passes into mount immediately. He starts targeting submissions but Giles defending fairly well and scrambling to safety. Du Plessis ends up back on top and looks for a big elbow but ends the round on top. 10-9 Du Plessis.
Good start to the round from Giles as he steps forward looking to land big heavy strikes early on. Du Plessis staying patient and avoids a big flying knee but backs up to the cage after landing a nice left hand. He throws a left jab that misses then throws a big right hand that lands flush and puts Giles out! He lands some follow up punches but this one is all over! What a knockout!
Ilia Topuria def Ryan Hall via Knockout, Round 1 (4:27)
Very tense start to the fight with Hall backing up against the cage and Topuria pressuring him. Hall throws a big spinning back kick that lands well. He starts rolling for emenari rolls but Topuria is avoiding them all and doing really well to skip out. Several minutes pass of Hall rolling for legs but missing, and then Hall goes for another spin kick. Topuria catches it and forces Hall to the ground, then lands some heavy shots that put Hall out! Huge win for Topuria!
Michel Pereira def Niko Price via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Slow start to the fight as Pereira lands a nice jab and Price starts to go for some takedowns against the cage. Pereira defends well against the cage and starts firing off some big shots and his speed is troubling Price. Some superman punch attempts just miss but Pereira is doing well to keep attacking with volume. Rolling thunder attempt to finish the round and it’s 10-9 to the Brazilian.
Second round and Pereira is coming out strong, throwing a nice body kick that hurts Price. He goes on the attack and starts throwing some heavy strikes and gets Price down to the ground. Pereira starts looking for an americana submission but Price defends it, so Pereira starts raining down strikes instead. Price is just about surviving and Pereira moves to his back looking for a choke, but Price is able to roll out and get back to his feet before the round ends. 20-18 Pereira.
Final round and Price is pouring on the pressure nice and early as he sees Pereira is tiring. Price landing some big shots and Pereira just doesn’t have the same pop to his counters or movement in his legs anymore. Price pouring it on and landing some big strikes but Pereira is surviving. Nice left hand from Pereira but Price keeps coming forward. He goes all out before the end of the round but it’s likely not enough. 29-28 Pereira for me.
Max Griffin def Carlos Condit via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x2, 30-27)
Hugely impressive start to the fight from Griffin as he lands some heavy leg kicks early that are getting big reactions from Condit. Griffin keeping a big pace and is doing lots of work on Condit who just can’t get going at all. Griffin landing some big strikes and Condit is in trouble! Griffin goes for the finish but Condit survives and the round ends. 10-9 Griffin, potentially even a 10-8.
Second round and Condit has come out and is walking forward and Griffin has slowed down considerably. Condit more willing to take the strikes as he comes forward and Griffin has so far completely stopped with the leg kicks. Condit continuing to step forward and landing some nice strikes but Griffin not getting hurt too much and is trying to counter. Condit lands a few more as the round ends, 19-19.
Griffin coming out much more aggressive in the final round and landing some nice jabs. Few big haymakers from Griffin are getting through, and Condit is being forced to back up now as he starts to tire. Condit starts firing back with some heavy body shots and a right hand, but Griffin throws a couple of leg kicks to snap the momentum immediately. Nice right hand again from Griffin and Condit backs up, so Griffin goes for the takedown and keeps the fight there until the round ends. 29-28 Griffin for me. Great fight.
Sean O’Malley def Kris Moutinho via Knockout, Round 3 (4:33)
Solid start to the fight from O’Malley. Suga is pushing the pace and landing some really nice jabs. Lots of heavy strikes landing but Moutinho stepping forward and looking for a right hook. O’Malley continues with the jabs and hooks through the guard and he is beating Moutinho up badly. Big right hook lands and drops Moutinho and then he goes for a spin kick that just misses. Lots of strikes and Moutinho is getting pieced up. O’Malley throws a pull right cross counter and drops Moutinho! He goes for the guillotine submission but time runs out. 10-8 O’Malley.
Second round and O’Malley is doing more of the same, just landing heavy strikes and really beating Moutinho up. Moutinho keeps storming forward though and is just missing with his right hooks. O’Malley smashing hooks and jabs through the guard but starting to tire. Moutinho keeps going forward and is talking to O’Malley and surviving the beating somehow. 20-17.
O’Malley comes out in the third round firing once again but Moutinho is just a zombie coming forward. O’Malley throwing knees, kicks, strikes and uppercuts but Moutinho is talking to him and smiling. O’Malley is fading but still throwing beautiful jabs and combinations. As the round comes into the final 30 seconds O’Malley lands a huge combination and Moutinho is hurt! He’s still standing but the referee waves it off after an accumulation.
Irene Aldana def Yana Kunitskaya via Knockout, Round 1 (4:35)
Good start to the fight from Kunitskaya with some kicks to counter the boxing attack of Aldana early on. Kunitskaya goes for a spinning wheel kick and then clinches up looking for a takedown, but Aldana defends it really well. Aldana slips a charge and lands a big right cross to the nose and then a jab, then lands a beautiful left hook to the body that hurts Kunitskaya. Some good jabs and slips and then she lands a big left hand again that drops Kunitskaya. Aldana rains down ground and pound but Kunitskaya tries to survive it by holding her hands for control. Aldana gets on top of her, slams big strikes into her face and the referee steps in to end it! Huge performance from Aldana!
Tai Tuivasa def Greg Hardy via Knockout, Round 1 (1:07)
Tuivasa comes out and lands some heavy leg kicks to start that Hardy immediately feels and struggles with. They start going wild with strikes and Hardy tags Tuivasa bad! He rushes in for the finish but Tuivasa counters with a crazy left-hook that puts Hardy out!!! Wow! What a knockout!!
Gilbert Burns def Stephen Thompson via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Very cagey start to the fight from both guys as they look to feel each other out. Burns steps forward with some looping hooks but Thompson avoids and moves out of range once again. Burns shoots in for a takedown against the cage and after a stalemate gets the fight down. He holds top position for the remainder of the round without landing too much damage. 10-9 Burns.
Thompson comes out more on his toes and lands some good side kicks and lots of body shots to keep Burns at distance. Some nice right hands and Burns bites down on his mouthpiece to fire back but Thompson is out of the way swiftly. More kicks from Thompson and as the round comes to an end Burns gets Thompson down once again and lands some decent strikes but that’s a Thompson round. 19-19.
Final round and Burns comes out hot and heavy ready to go. Nice right hand lands and then Burns shoots for the takedown and gets it around halfway through the round. Burns sits on top of Thompson and applies pressure, with good ground and pound and just staying heavy to take what should be a decision win for him. 29-28 Burns.
Dustin Poirier def Conor McGregor via Doctor Stoppage (Broken Ankle), Round 1 (5:00)
McGregor comes out and lands two sharp spinning kicks to the body followed by his teet kick. Poirier coming forward but McGregor slams some hard leg kicks into him to slow him down. Poirier responds with a couple of his own but McGregor going for the kicks. McGregor lands a nice left hand but Poirier responds with a combination that seems to buzz McGregor. McGregor clinches and Poirier goes for the takedown, but McGregor looks to sink in a guillotine choke. Poirier avoids and starts slamming in some heavy ground and pound shots, big elbows to McGregor who’s hurt! Poirier piling on the pressure and looking for a finish but McGregor is surviving for now. Poirier lets McGregor back up and he throws a punch that misses but as he plants his back foot his leg gives way and snaps! Poirier lands some shots on McGregor while he’s down as the round ends.
McGregor tells the referee and doctor his leg is broken and the doctor waves the fight off immediately! What an anti-climax to a crazy fight and trilogy!
In the co-main event we have a huge welterweight contender fight too as former title challengers Gilbert Burns and Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson go head-to-head with each other to try and climb towards another shot against Kamaru Usman in the near future.
Also on the card is the return of ‘Suga’ Sean O’Malley as he opens up the main card, while the prelims are full of exciting bouts too.
Last time out at UFC Vegas 30, we went 12/6 with two perfect picks for our selection for a not so good outing. That took us to 352/554 (63.54%) with 160 perfect picks (45.45%) since starting up.
We’ll look to improve that with this huge 13 fight card, and after starting with the early prelims here we move on to the rest of the prelims now.
Trevin Giles (14-2) vs Dricus Du Plessis (15-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Giles is a solid kickboxer, with a good power jab and lots of kicks and combinations. Du Plessis is also a good striker with good power but he also has a solid ground game with nine submission wins in his career and a 100% finish rate in his career. The South African always throws some heavy leg kicks and looks for some top control.
It’ll be a really close one but Giles has a tendency to start relatively slowly and make weird decisions, which will allow Du Plessis the opportunity to earn the victory in a wild back and forth bout. PICK – Dricus Du Plessis via Decision
Ryan Hall (8-1) vs Ilia Topuria (10-0) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A very, very fun fight in the featherweight division as jiu-jitsu wizard Ryan Hall takes on the undefeated Ilia Topuria. Hall has won eight fights in a row but hasn’t fought since 2019 due to lots of people not wanting to fight him, while Topuria is 2-0 in the UFC with a decision win over Youssef Zalal at UFC Fight Island 5 and then knocking out Damon Jackson at UFC Vegas 16.
Hall is an absolutely brilliant jiu-jitsu practitioner but he also has great kicks and some decent striking while standing too. Topuria on the other hand is a really good wrestler and submission artist himself but he also has some really good boxing too. He’ll need to use that boxing in this fight because he does not want to go to ground against Hall.
Topuria has all the tools to counter Hall’s strengths and so long as it’s him pushing the pace of the fight and not on the defensive the whole time, he should be able to get an entertaining win. PICK – Ilia Topuria via Decision
Niko Price (14-4) vs Michel Pereira (25-11) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Potentially a fight of the night contender here in the welterweight division as two absolute entertainment machines go head-to-head. Price has alternated wins and losses in his most recent fights but saw his draw against ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone at UFC Vegas 11 overturned to a no contest after a positive marijuana test. Pereira is a showman who likes flips and dancing in the cage but has managed to win his last two-in-a-row against Zelim Imadaev and then Khaos Williams at UFC Vegas 17.
Price is a solid boxer who comes forward with reckless abandon and looks to put you out with every shot, while Pereira is a wild man who is spectacular and free-flowing with his attacks. Both guys throw with ridiculous venom and while Price has excellent cardio, Pereira’s is questionable at best.
Despite that though, Pereira has shown in his last two fights that he can tone down the crazy and be quite devastating. For that reason, I think he has the advantage. His grappling is excellent and he has genuine knockout power too so I think he’ll catch Price coming in and then get a submission to close the show. PICK – Michel Pereira via Submission, Round 2
Carlos Condit (32-13) vs Max Griffin (17-8) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
One of the best welterweights of all time goes head-to-head with ‘Pain’ Max Griffin in the featured prelim bout of the night. Condit snapped a five-fight win streak by beating Court McGee before earning a decision over Matt Brown at UFC Fight Island 7, while Griffin has won his last two with a KO over Ramiz Brahimaj before a knockout over Kenan Song at UFC Vegas 22 too.
Condit is great at everything, with good kickboxing skills and some excellent chokes on his record too while Griffin is a power striker but he’s also a strong wrestler now too. Condit has historically always had bad takedown defence and that isn’t good against someone who is happy to take his opponent down and stay patient on top with ground and pound to stay busy.
Griffin is fragile sometimes but there’s been a switch in mentality recently and while Condit looked better in his last two, it’s not enough to convince me he’s back. PICK – Max Griffin via Decision
Tyson Nam def Jerome Rivera via Knockout, Round 2 (0:34)
A competitive opening round of the night between these two flyweights. Rivera staying at distance for the most part of the round, using heavy inside leg kicks and push kicks to maintain the range while Nam is looking for a big right hand. Nam forcing Rivera against the cage to land a big overhand right but Rivera doing well with his footwork to avoid it for the most part. A solid round that Rivera edges. 10-9 Rivera.
Second round starts and Rivera goes for another leg kick but Nam counters with a huge overhand right that drops Rivera! Some ground and pound is enough and the referee ends it. Big win for Nam!
Andre Ewell def Irwin Rivera via Split Decision (29-28 x2, 28-29)
Really competitive opening round again. Ewell opened up well landing some nice strikes and using his range really well. Rivera adjusts well to the range and starts countering the straight left with a big knee and lands one flush. Rivera shoots in for a takedown and Ewell stuffs it, then searches to take the back. He eventually gets it but Rivera reverses into his guard as the buzzer goes. 10-9 Ewell.
Another competitive round between these two as the pace slows a little bit and Ewell uses his range and superior striking well. Both men throwing one shot at a time for the most part but then Ewell starts ripping the body well. Rivera tries to counter with the same shots but Ewell uses his length to stay out of the distance and land more to take another round, but he’s tired. 20-18 Ewell.
Third round and Ewell using his range well yet again to stay out of distance and danger from Rivera. Nice jabs and kicks by Ewell keeps him active and lets him recover despite him looking tired but Rivera just not quite pushing the way he probably should be. Rivera lands his first takedown of the night with 10 seconds remaining but it should be a comfortable decision win for Ewell.
Randy Costa def Journey Newson via Knockout, Round 1 (0:41)
WOW! Randy Costa and Journey Newson begin the fight with a feeling out process, which ends with Randy Costa throwing a straight left-hand and following it up with a left high kick that knocks Newson out! A couple of follow up blows but this one is over. WOW!
Well that was quick. Minner locks up a clinch and then locks in a quick guillotine and it’s over just like that. Wow.
Jessica-Rose Clark def Sarah Alpar via Knockout, Round 3 (4:21)
Clark opens up the fight with some nice body kicks and strikes from distance, using her legs to keep Alpar’s inevitable takedown attempt away. Alpar throws a one-two and changes levels and shoots for the double leg but Clark defends it very well and after a long battle, it’s Clark who ends up in top position in side control. 10-9 Clark, great confidence boosting first round for her.
Better start to the round for Alpar as she secures two nice takedowns, but Clark gets back to her feet quickly both times. Clark lands a nice knee to the body in the clinch and reverses the position to put Alpar against the cage and then lands a big elbow on the break. Clark enters into a clinch exchange again and is physically just too strong for Alpar. She eventually gets the fight down herself and starts landing heavy ground and pound strikes but the buzzer likely saves Alpar. 20-18 Clark, Alpar needs a finish.
Clark comes out and starts landing big shots once again as Alpar goes for a takedown again. Clark lands big elbows and against the cage as Alpar seemingly sits down in the cage hurt she eats a huge knee to the nose and is hurt. The referee stops the fight believing the knee was illegal and Alpar receives treatment. The referee then discovers the knee was legal, meaning the fight should be stopped after use of instant replay, but he instead restarts the fight! Clark goes on the offence and absolutely batters Alpar for another two minutes before the referee finally ends the fight. Big win.
Mayra Bueno Silva def Mara Romero Borella via Submission (Armbar), Round 1 (2:29)
Borella opens up the round by initiating a ground exchange so you know she’s a lunatic. She lands some nice ground and pound strikes but nothing damaging and Silva is looking to set things up the entire time. She throws up an armbar out of nowhere and gets the early tap-out for the win. Baffling decision by Borella.
Damon Jackson def Mirsad Bektic via Submission (Guillotine), Round 3 (1:21)
Bektic comes with an immediate one-two followed by a double leg. Lots of scrambles and positional changes but Bektic ends up on top and lands a big punch to the back of the head. The referee pauses the fight and stands the fighters up as punishment, but Bektic rocks Jackson as the fight resumes and gets the fight back down to the ground quickly. Jackson locks up a really deep kimura but Bektic doesn’t even think about tapping and instead just steps over and lands nice ground and pound strikes to break it. Bektic sees the round out with more ground and pound. 10-9 Bektic.
Fast start to the second round as Bektic opens up again with the takedown but Jackson does well to grab the neck and locks in a really tight guillotine. It’s in deep but Bektic fights it with body shots and eventually pops out and continues to dominate the grappling exchanges on the mat with raw strength. Bektic attempts for a guillotine of his own in the final minute of the round but Jackson reverses and lands some nice elbows on the ground to end the round. 20-18 Bektic.
Third round starts with Bektic engaging in a clinch yet again but this time Jackson ends up on top by grabbing for the guillotine again. He sweeps to end up on top and gets a mounted guillotine in deep. Bektic fights for a while, but Jackson is too good here and gets the tap. Huge win for Jackson!
David Dvorak def Jordan Espinosa via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
A methodical opening round from both fighters as both men look to land leg kicks to slow their opponent down. Espinosa trying to move on the outside and Dvorak using good boxing to land some nice left hooks to counter. A few slips from Espinosa throughout but never really hurt, but I give the opening round to Dvorak for landing a bit more flush throughout and pushing the pace a bit more. 10-9 Dvorak.
More feeling out going on in this second round as Dvorak avoids the heavy right hand of Espinosa by continuing to throw leg kicks and left hooks. Espinosa is struggling with the left leg and is forced to switch stance repeatedly as he has to decide between landing the big right hand and eating more kicks to the leg. Dvorak staying aggressive and busy and takes the second round too. 20-18 Dvorak.
Dvorak comes out in the third with leg kicks on the brain yet again as Espinosa looks to counter. A quick clinch sees both men exchange in the pocket but Dvorak is landing heavier with the hands and on the leg kicks too. Dvorak has limited Espinosa’s movement with the kicks and is able to walk forward and close the distance better to land big hooks. Into the final minute and a heavy leg kick lands that wobbles Espinosa but that’s all and it should be a comfortable win for Dvorak. 30-27 Dvorak.
Kevin Holland def Darren Stewart via Split Decision (29-28 x2, 28-29)
A real fun first round in this middleweight fight. Holland and Stewart both come out throwing bombs early but nothing lands clean and they engage in a clinch against the cage. Stewart lands an inadvertant low blow which causes a pause in the action. Stewart eats two heavy shots from Holland but they both continue to feel each other out and exchange heavy blows. 10-9 Holland but it’s a close fight.
Early second round and Stewart rushes in and catches a kick and trips Holland to the ground. He attempts ground and pound but Holland defends well. Stewart gets to his feet with Holland still down and they exchange a few kicks before the referee stands them up. Holland goes for a takedown and Stewart grabs the neck for a guillotine but he can’t quite secure it so gets back to his feet and lands two big punches. Stewart throwing nice teep kicks to the lead leg of Holland before the two exchange in another clinch as the round comes to an end. 20-18 Holland.
Third round and both guys are coming looking for a finish. Stewart goes for another takedown and secures it but Holland gets up quickly before being dumped back down immediately afterwards. Holland goes for a kimura but can’t quite get it and they both get back to their feet. Holland beginning to tire now and shoots for a takedown but Stewart reverses and puts Holland on his back with 90 seconds to go. Big ground and pound for the rest of the round as both men trade verbals in the cage as the buzzer goes. 29-28 Holland for me.
The fight opens with a rush from Dern before she misses a head kick and ends up on her back. Markos engages on the ground and Dern quickly locks in a triangle but Dern is looking for an armbar. Markos is defending well but Dern sweeps into top position and keeps working transitions until she locks an armbar in deep! Markos refuses to tap but Dern adjusts slightly and it’s hard to watch but eventually Markos taps out. A grappling clinic from the Brazilian.
Johnny Walker def Ryan Spann via Knockout, Round 1 (2:43)
Walker comes out and explodes immediately which forces Spann straight into a takedown attempt. He gets Walker against the cage and both men clinch for a short while, throwing short knees to the thigh of one another. Walker separates and Spann lands a huge left hand that drops him! Spann goes for the finish but Walker escapes from full mount and gets back up. Both men land massive punches simultaneously that rock one another, but Spann rushes over looking for a takedown again. Walker starts landing big punches to the side of the head, before a massive elbow knocks Spann unconscious. A few more punches and the referee steps in to finish it. What a comeback win!
Khamzat Chimaev def Gerald Meerschaert via Knockout (0:17)
Chimaev comes out, throws a body kick then throws a straight right hand and knocks Meerschaert out cold. Goodnight.
Donald Cerrone vs Niko Price – Majority Draw (29-27, 28-28 x2)
A frantic pace to the start of this fight as Niko Price puts it on Cowboy early. Big strikes early on using his extra physicality to just walk forward and land heavy blows. Cerrone is stunned but surviving and comes back with some knees to the body. They go to clinch up and Price accidentally pokes Cerrone in the eye which causes a short break. They get back into it and Price lands a big one-two immediately that rocks Cerrone. He clinches up again and lands some nice knees but then Price pokes him in the eye again and the referee takes a point away! Round ends and what would be a Price round is now a tie. 9-9.
Second round is more even as both men look to go for steady combinations instead of those bombs. Price is visibly slower in this round but still has power, while Cerrone is finding a home for his jab. Cerrone getting in and out very well, but once again Price landing with a bit more power and a bit more volume to take the round but it could go either way. 19-18 Price for me.
Third and final round and the fight is up for grabs. Both men continue to walk forward on each other and land strikes but the pace is slowing and less power is in these strikes. ‘Cowboy’ steps forward and lads nice jabs, then lands a big head kick that Price just eats and continues to walk forward. The fight continues to go in the same direction as we enter the final 30 seconds, with Cerrone landing blows to a visibly tired Price. The round ends and I’ve got this as a draw. 28-28.
Woodley rushes out and takes the centre of the octagon as the two fighters exchange leg kicks. Woodley throws some jabs to establish distance then lets his right hand fly and Colby ducks under and blasts a double leg for a successful takedown. Woodley is patient and eventually makes his way back to the feet and separates. Colby has the centre now and throws a solid body kick and then a big right hook that lands clean before engaging in the clinch against the cage. Covington breaks away with a big elbow and an uppercut follows up but just misses. 10-9 Colby.
Woodley comes out with a nice right hand to open the round but once again Colby moves away and looks to engage in a clinch. Colby pushes forward and Woodley backtracks all the way to the cage constantly, as a defence mechanism to defend the inevitable takedown attempts. Flying knee attempt from Colby just misses and then another clinch. Every attack from either fighter leads to a clinch at the end of it, the respect for each other’s skillset is obvious. 20-18 Colby.
Third round opens up and Colby starts with an early eye poke that causes Woodley a lot of trouble. The fight pauses for almost two minutes but they get back into it as Woodley comes out with a nice combo attempt. Colby avoiding that power of Woodley and landing jabs before then engaging with a clinch against the cage. Woodley reverses the position momentarily but Colby then turns it back. Woodley visibly tiring against the cage as Colby lands annoying, point-scoring shots that don’t do much damage but will catch the eye of the judges. 30-27 Colby.
Into the main event rounds and Colby lands a beautiful body kick immediately before engaging in a takedown attempt. Woodley defends with a guillotine attempt but Colby pops out and puts Woodley down. In full guard and Colby is using the cage to try and prevent Woodley moving while landing some nice ground and pound to the body and head. A big elbow from Colby cuts Woodley open just below the eye and he’s landing a lot of volume on the ground, Woodley unable to get up but trying to defend himself. Colby continues with the ground and pound but Woodley survives the round. He needs a finish into the final round. 40-35 Colby.
Final round and Colby comes out with the same mentality to try and get the takedown. He lifts a high crotch against the cage but Woodley holds onto the neck. Suddenly, Woodley starts screaming in pain and the referee waves the fight off. Bizarre ending but the result is the same regardless.
A not-so stacked card last weekend is followed up this weekend by one of the most stacked Fight Night cards in recent memory as Colby Covington and Tyron Woodley finally meet in a grudge match in the main event.
The card will also see the likes of Donald Cerrone, Khamzat Chimaev, Kevin Holland and Mackenzie Dern on the main card, but the undercard isn’t short of names either. With a HUGE 14 fights scheduled for this weekend ahead of the UFC’s second trip to Fight Island, I will break down each fight and give my predictions.
Last weekend was my worst showing for picks so far, as I ended with just 6/12 and only 1 perfect pick (winner, method, round).
With EIGHT prelim fights scheduled at the time of writing, I’m splitting this card into three rather than the usual two. I have already predicted the early prelims of the card here and the rest of the prelims here, so now I’ll try my hand at the stacked main card to better last weeks attempts.
Kevin Holland (18-5) vs Darren Stewart (12-5) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
With so many contenders for fight of the night, this is another that stands out. Kevin Holland and Darren Stewart are making quick turnarounds after wins in their last bout. Holland knocked out Joaquin Buckley with a stunning punch in the third round last month, while Stewart secured a first round submission win over Maki Pitolo on the same card. Holland is a top level striker with good wrestling chops and has come into his own in recent months but has shown a propencity to showboat in the cage. Stewart is a powerful puncher who’s usual style is to sprawl-and-brawl, making himself very difficult to take down which allows him to open up his kickboxing game. With both guys preferring the stand-up game, it comes down to accuracy and power. Either fighter could knock the other out, but Holland is that little bit more dynamic and I think he should be able to get the win. PICK – Kevin Holland via Knockout, Round 2
Mackenzie Dern (8-1) vs Randa Markos (10-8-1) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
This will be a fight that will almost certainly take place on the ground if Mackenzie Dern has anything to do with it, but Markos may need to have other ideas. Both women have only ever stopped fights via submission but Markos has a wrestling advantage. Dern is a multiple time jiu-jitsu world champion and holds a black belt, making her super dangerous no matter her position on the mat. After suffering her first defeat, she bounced back in her last bout with a kneebar submission win over Hannah Cifers back in May. Markos has alternated wins and losses over the last six years and lost her last fight to Amanda Ribas also. She would usually rely on top control to get a win but on the ground, she’s in danger in this bout. She will have to look to use striking to win this and while it’s not her usual path to victory, she has the edge on the feet. Dern’s takedowns aren’t good and her striking arsenal comprises of a looping hook and some wild overhands. Dern has the advantage on the ground which is where both women usually do their work, but she needs to get it there first. PICK – Mackenzie Dern via Submission, Round 2
Johnny Walker (17-5) vs Ryan Spann (18-5) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
A light heavyweight showdown where a one-time top prospect in Johnny Walker looks to get back to winning ways against another top prospect in Ryan Spann. Walker was on a wrecking path when he entered the UFC, with showreel knockout wins over Khalil Rountree, Just Ledet and Misha Cirkunov but he fell in to Corey Anderson in his biggest test via a first round knockout. His comeback fight in May against Nikita Krylov didn’t go his way either as he was held to a decision. Spann is on an eight-fight win streak including 4-0 in the UFC, with his latest win a split decision over Sam Alvey. Walker is an explosive kickboxer with vicious power and acrobatic ability while Spann is more of a boxer who uses his leg-kicks to set them up. Spann has severe cardio problems and we’ve seen Walker’s main issues come against those who are prepared to wrestle him. Anderson KO’d him simply because Walker wasn’t expecting anything other than takedown attempts, but he won’t have that issue with Spann. In a striking match, Walker should be able to land heavy blows for a knockout win as Spann begins to fade. PICK – Johnny Walker via Knockout, Round 2
Khamzat Chimaev (8-0) vs Gerald Meerschaert (31-13) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
The hype train for Khamzat Chimaev returns to the APEX as he looks for his third UFC win against the biggest name he’s faced so far in Gerald Meerschaert. Chimaev destroyed John Phillips at middleweight and Rhys McKee at welterweight in just 10 days last time around, while Meerschaert was knocked out by Ian Heinisch in his last fight back in June. Chimaev has shown in his last two fights that he will go straight for takedowns and dominate with relentless strikes until he gets the submission or the referee stops it, but Meerschaert is a black-belt and will be able to hold his own on the ground. He also has good power in his hands but he is most dangerous on the ground, as his 23 submission wins show. Chimaev is a skilled kickboxer though and will have no issues keeping the fight standing for a while and using his superior striking skills for the first time in his short UFC career. Despite the big jump in competition, Chimaev is so skilled and good at what he does that he should be able to get a mightily impressive win here. The UFC obviously think so too, having already booked him for a fight after this one. PICK – Khamzat Chimaev via Knockout, Round 2
Donald Cerrone (36-15 1NC) vs Niko Price (14-4 1NC) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
‘Cowboy’ Cerrone looks to ensure he doesn’t take the gatekeeper tag just yet as he looks to get into the win column after four straight defeats when he takes on Niko Price. Price is a knockout artist who is a natural 170lbs-er and that spells bad things for Cerrone. Both men throw great kickboxing combinations and while Cerrone is slightly better technically, Price’s extra power makes up for it. If Cerrone wants success he’ll need to use his footwork to get in and out quickly but Price has a three-inch reach advantage so will likely stay out of range. This is a fight where both men will employ similar tactics and it’s simply about who can outland the other. I think because of Price’s physicality advantage and power edge, he will be able to stay for the full three rounds and secure a big win. PICK – Niko Price via Unanimous Decision
Colby Covington (15-2) vs Tyron Woodley (19-5-1) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
The grudge match of the year. A fight over two years in the making is finally among us as Colby Covington looks to get back into the win column following his title defeat in December last year while Woodley looks to snap a two-fight losing streak against his long time rival. Woodley’s style is usually to sprawl and brawl, with his huge power in his right hand his most trusted weapon. He’s failed to throw it with any real vim in his last two fights though as he was crushed by both Kamaru Usman and Gilbert Burns. Covington is almost the worst possible match up for Woodley at this point. He has a suffocating wrestling style, much like Usman does, but he showed in that fight for the title last year that he has good striking too. His heavy hands caused damage to Usman and although he ultimately lost, he showed that he is the second best welterweight in the world. This fight is the type that ‘Chaos’ would have been dreaming of to get back into the picture – a big name, but past his best in the cage. Colby could go for a finish in this one just to make a statement, but I think he takes it the full 25 minutes for a dominant win. PICK – Colby Covington via Unanimous Decision